What Does -i Mean In Linux


In the world of Linux, there are many command line options and flags that can be quite confusing for beginners. One such option is the “-i” flag, which is used in various Linux commands. In this article, I will delve into what exactly the “-i” flag means and how it can be useful in different scenarios.

Understanding the “-i” Flag

The “-i” flag, also known as the interactive option, is used in Linux commands to make a command prompt interactive. It prompts the user for a confirmation before proceeding with the command. This can be particularly helpful when you want to avoid any accidental or unintended actions.

For example, let’s consider the “rm” command, which is used to remove files and directories in Linux. By default, the “rm” command does not ask for confirmation before deleting files. However, if you pass the “-i” flag along with the “rm” command, it will prompt you to confirm each file deletion.

Here’s an example:

$ rm -i file.txt

When you run this command, the terminal will display a prompt asking for your confirmation:

remove regular file 'file.txt'? [y/N]

You can then choose to proceed with the deletion by typing “y” and pressing Enter, or you can cancel the deletion by typing “n” and pressing Enter.

Practical Uses of the “-i” Flag

The “-i” flag can be extremely useful in situations where you want to ensure that you don’t accidentally delete important files or overwrite existing ones. It acts as an extra layer of protection by forcing you to confirm your actions before they are executed.

Here are a few examples of how the “-i” flag can be used:

  1. Removing Multiple Files: When deleting multiple files using the “rm” command, passing the “-i” flag will prompt you for confirmation before deleting each file. This can prevent you from mistakenly deleting files you didn’t intend to remove.
  2. Overwriting Files: Some Linux commands, such as “cp” (copy) and “mv” (move), have the potential to overwrite existing files. By using the “-i” flag with these commands, you can ensure that you are aware of any potential file overwrites and can make an informed decision before proceeding.
  3. Editing System Files: When making changes to system configuration files or other critical files, it’s always a good practice to be cautious. By using the “-i” flag with commands like “vi” (text editor) or “sed” (stream editor), you can avoid accidental modifications and have the opportunity to review and confirm your changes before saving.

It’s worth noting that not all Linux commands support the “-i” flag. The availability of this flag depends on the specific command and its implementation.


The “-i” flag in Linux commands provides an interactive experience by prompting the user for confirmation before executing certain actions. It can be a valuable tool for preventing accidental deletions, overwrites, or modifications. By using the “-i” flag, you can have greater control and confidence when working with command line operations in Linux.